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Is There a, "Second Blessing?"
By David A. DePra
The Baptism with the Holy Spirit used to be referred to as, "the second blessing." You don’t hear that term used much anymore, but if you believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is an additional experience that we must seek after we are saved, rather than one we receive with salvation, then the term would be appropriate. For in that case, the baptism with the Holy Spirit would be a SECOND BLESSING.
Most Pentecostal and Charismatic people believe that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a second blessing – one received in addition to salvation. They believe that you can be saved, and be indwelt by Christ -- but that this is not ALL that God has for us. You must go on to receive POWER, gifts, and an overflow. This, to them, is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the so-called, "second blessing."
Notice what, by default, is wrapped up in this teaching. If you must receive a second blessing to receive ALL that God wants to give us, then you do NOT receive all when you receive Christ. Thus, this means that it is entirely possible to be saved but LACK everything that goes with this, "second blessing." Indeed, this is exactly what those who teach the second blessing DO say.
The division caused by this issue is wide. This division is why we MUST find the Truth. For if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a SECOND blessing, there are, without a doubt, millions who lack that blessing. They have, "only salvation," and have missed so much of the purpose for which God sent the Holy Spirit. But if the baptism of the Holy Spirit is NOT a second blessing, then those who claim that it is, well, they are, at best, in error and under the impression that they have something that others do not have.
So again, here is the question: Is there a SECOND blessing? Is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that second blessing? Or is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and everything God has for us, received at salvation?
The answer from scripture is clear: There is NO second blessing. There is NO additional experience we must have after we receive Christ. When we receive Christ, we receive everything God has for us. We are COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
The Bible is the Word of God
At one time I believed that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was a second blessing. I believed it, not because I actually looked into scripture, but because people told me it was a second blessing, and because my experience seemed to verify this. I thought I had received the baptism as an addition to salvation. So many people around me believed the same thing that I never thought to question my thinking.
I have to admit that despite my assumptions on this issue, I was always uneasy when turning to scripture to actually prove that there was a second blessing. But over the course of time, I began to ask, "What is taught in the Bible?" I put aside what people said, what teachers taught, and what I had experienced. I put aside all the claims of healing, signs, wonders, and prosperity. And most of all, I put aside – not my own experience – but my interpretations of them. I went back to square one and asked, "What does the Bible really say about these things?"
This is something few Christians do. Many cannot imagine that thousands could be off the track on something as major of an issue as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But thousands are. For even if you believe there is a second blessing, there are thousands who deny it. SOMEONE is wrong about this. Thousands of ministers, on one side or the other, are terribly wrong about it. And unless we put aside our bias, our peer pressure, and our personal experiences, and turn to scripture, we are never going to affirm God’s Truth on the matter.
One secondary reason (not the primary one) that I began to question the validity of a second blessing is that it became evident to me that many who claimed a second blessing were not walking in the Truth. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us into all Truth, and surely, I thought, those who claimed to have a baptism with the Spirit -- that others did not have -- would evidence this work of the Spirit to guide us into all Truth the MOST. But instead, I found that many who claimed a second blessing evidenced it the LEAST. Christian television, which is largely charismatic, is the case in point. There is MUCH error there – serious error. All these folks seemed to offer as evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit were supposed signs and wonders, like tongues, prophecy, and healings. But this is not what the Bible teaches is the evidence. The evidence is Christ in us, and the Truth lived through us. That seemed sadly lacking, and this made me wonder if the whole issue of the second blessing wasn’t in question.
Once I opened this question, and it took quite a number of years, I began to see that the Bible does NOT teach a second blessing. Not a suggestion of it. Rather, the Bible teaches ONE promise of the Father, and ONE blessing through Jesus Christ. And yet I found that much that is attributed to a second blessing by the charismatics – I’m not hear talking about the abuses or the craziness, but the good teaching -- is in fact included in that ONE and ONLY blessing in Christ.
Get that. The teaching of the second blessing, and whether all of the gifts are possible for today, are SEPARATE issues. They are separate issues, despite the fact that many people associate especially the sign gifts with the second blessing. But again – all of this is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible shows that all of the gifts are POSSIBLE (I said POSSIBLE, not necessarily widespread or normative) for all time. But the Bible does not teach a second blessing. It would seem that few see or practice this balance.
I realize that there are going to be folks who absolutely will NOT accept that the doctrine of the second blessing is in error. They will stop reading here. That will usually be because they have interpreted their personal experience along a certain line that mandates a second blessing. But nothing I am about to write necessarily invalidates your experience, although it may redefine it. What you experienced, if it was real, was not the product of a second blessing. It was the release or movement of God in your life – all of which was ALREADY potential in the one and only blessing of salvation in Christ. The experience may have been real, but your interpretation or definition and theology wrong.
The Bible is the Word of God. It is written Truth. Thus, my experiences, or how I interpret them, must agree with the Bible. But also, my LACK of experiences must agree with the Bible. Get that. The Bible tells us what a Christian IS, and it reveals what it means to walk with Christ. If my experience departs from that, I am in error. But if my experience is completely lacking of what the Bible reveals, then I am also in error. In short, to have a wrong experience is serious. But to have NO experience is just as serious, once I insist that my lack of experience is all that God offers.
More On Experiences
People hold their experiences dear. That’s ok. If they are Biblical, we ought to. But most people who disagree with me about there being NO second blessing will not disagree from scripture. They will disagree because of their experiences – experiences they have already defined along a wrong line. People will say, "I prayed for the second blessing of the baptism and had an incredible experience." Maybe you did. But as I’ve already stated, this does not mean that what happened to you was a second blessing. Rather, it was God honoring your faith, and bringing you into a greater release of what you received at salvation.
It is possible to have all kinds of reactions to the touch of God. Some people refuse to react, even though they know God is touching them. They just keep it all in. Others let loose, and react emotionally with great expression. There are many possibilities in the middle of these two extremes. But can we see that there are many things – including fears, expectations, guilt, peer pressure, the desire to attract attention, deception, and even sincere ignorance – that can contribute to our reactions? Sure. But again – the touch of God is one thing. My reaction TO the touch of God is another. And my interpretation of what is going on is yet a THIRD issue. But my reaction, or lack therefore, and my interpretation, is NOT necessarily indicative of what God is doing. It never is.
Those possibilities are issues when God does touch you -- and it is real. But it is also possible to react to what you think is a touch of God, but which is not. People do this all the time. Most of these people are not deliberately fabricating an experience. They are either taught wrong, or have come up with strange ideas on their own. The point is, however, how I react, or don’t react, means nothing. It does not prove what is of God, or what is not.
Again – and we cannot overemphasize this – all that matters is what the Bible says. There is no experience that is of God that is not verified in scripture. It does not even matter if that experience is supernatural. God does nothing outside of what is taught in the Bible.
And so we see that we may have had a very real experience that we called a second blessing, or baptism with the Holy Spirit. God may have touched us. But our experience, and what we called it, while it does not invalidate our experience, must be tested and defined according to scripture.
Central to this problem is the error of exalting an experience. Once we make the second blessing a THING we experience, and a THING God does to us, we will get off onto these wrong paths. The baptism with the Holy Spirit is not a THING that happens to us. It is a PERSON into whom we are baptized – and it happens once for all at salvation.
The bottom line is this: We are to experience GOD HIMSELF. That is Christianity. And much of the problem in this issue of the second blessing is found in our departure from that one Truth. The baptism with the Holy Spirit was never about gifts, signs, and wonders. Never about an experience which HAPPENS TO US. The baptism with the Holy Spirit was always about Jesus Christ in us through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Everything else that comes with that package is secondary. A distant second.
Somewhere along the line, tongues became THE evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches nothing of the sort. The evidence, or witness, is JESUS CHRIST in us. (see I John 5) Somewhere along the line, the baptism of the Holy Spirit became an experience to seek. It is not. It is the result of seeking a Person, Jesus Christ. And somewhere along the line, the gifts, signs and wonders, and the like, began to define spirituality and what was real. Those things never do. Christianity is, "Christ in us, the hope of glory." As stated, gifts and the like are merely the outcome of HIM IN US.
I say it again: Get back to the Bible. Read about what the apostles say about these things. Interpret all experiences through the Word. This is the only safe ground.
Now back to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. What is it? The Bible teaches that there is a baptism with the Holy Spirit. But rather than a, "second blessing," the Bible teaches that the baptism with the Holy Spirit IS SALVATION received.
To be BAPTIZED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT means to be fully immersed in everything Jesus is, and Jesus did, and Jesus wants to do. This not only includes all of the positive things God wants to give us, but includes the crucifixion of all that must be removed. The Holy Spirit takes everything that is of Jesus and makes Him real in and through us. The end result is that we are witnesses unto Christ. Jesus is Lord to us personally – not just as a fact – but in practice.
Now, there is nothing about any of that purpose that is ADDED to salvation. No. It IS salvation – it is precisely where salvation brings us. If you are saved, you got that way by giving your life to Christ. You repented of the sin of yourself as lord, and surrendered to Him as Lord. Thus, you cannot separate salvation from coming under the Lordship of Jesus.
Certainly it is possible to be saved, but not come under the Lordship of Jesus. But that is not because salvation and His Lordship are separate. Rather, it is because YOU have made them separate. You aren’t living out your salvation. You are in unbelief.
So we see that there is ONE promise of the Father. Not two. Thus, once we receive Christ, we receive ALL. It is not possible that there is an entire dimension of Christian experience – indeed, the most important dimension – that we continue to lack if we don’t go on to receive a SECOND promise or blessing. No. Once we possess ETERNAL life, we possess all that belongs to eternal life – and to say that we don’t is utter nonsense.
Thus, we have this great Truth. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is what you and I receive when we are saved – indeed, it is salvation received. There is NO, "second blessing." But this does not do away with a single one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In fact, what it does is show that the gifts are possible for everyone who is saved. There is no need to seek an additional baptism. When you receive Christ, you receive ALL that God has for you.
This question of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is highly divisive in Christianity today. For if there were a second blessing, there would indeed be two entirely different dimensions of Christian experience. There would be those who are, "merely saved." But then there would be those who were saved, but who have gone on to be, "filled." Not only do we see NO such possibility every accounted for in scripture, but do we really think that God would have permitted such a possibility?
Yet look at the church today. You have many kinds of divisions. But perhaps the greatest division today is that between, "charismatics" – who believe that they have received a second blessing -- and, "non-charismatics," who usually reject both the second blessing, and the gifts commonly associated with it. This division is wide.
I have actually had folks from each camp make identical statements to me about the other camp. Each has said, "I believe that those other folks are saved, but they are deceived." The charismatic people say, "The non-charismatics don’t realize what they don’t have." And the non-charismatics says, "The charismatics are deceived into thinking they have something we don’t have."
If there were such a thing as a second blessing, this division would be understandable! For if this baptism with the Holy Spirit is NOT received at salvation, then indeed, there are thousands and thousands of Christians who have received salvation, but NOT this supposed, "second blessing." And what a lack that would be! What you would have, as mentioned, are really two classes of Christian people – those who have received the second blessing, and those who haven’t.
What has made the division worse is that those who do not believe in a second blessing almost always, in rejecting a second blessing, reject everything that is commonly associated with it: Mostly the so-called, "sign gifts." Anything living, moving, or overtly supernatural is usually suspect to them. This is perhaps the most damaging thing of all. The second blessing, and many of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are lumped together in one package. If you reject one, you usually reject the other. If you accept one, you accept the other.
But again -- the Bible does not teach a, "second blessing." But it does teach the baptism with the Holy Spirit – as being the one and only blessing of salvation in Christ Jesus. And it does teach the possibility of all of the spiritual gifts – as included in this ONE blessing. Thus, despite the fact that there is no second blessing necessary to receive power and gifts, it is nevertheless a fact that the power and all of the gifts are included in salvation.
Let’s begin to look at this issue by laying down some facts commonly believed by those who teach the necessity of a second blessing. I want to quote a well-known minister who believes in the second blessing. I will not give the name because I don’t want to put the man in a bad light. This minister is probably someone that most charismatics would point to as an expert on this subject. The following are quotes from one of his books on the subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, i.e., the second blessing. His explanations, while I disagree with them, do accurately represent what people who believe we need a second blessing teach on this subject.
To quote him: (boldface mine)
Some people often use imprecise terminology for the, "Baptism WITH the Holy Spirit," in calling this experience the, "Baptism OF the Holy Spirit."
The Bible makes a distinction between the Holy Spirit dwelling within a believer and the Holy Spirit baptizing and, "overflowing," a believer.
Many people – not only today, but also in the early church – would receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and NOT be baptized with the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:4-14) This matter concerned the early Church leaders as it should concern us now.
The Holy Spirit comes to INDWELL the believer so that the person of Jesus can be seen in us, and He comes to overflow our lives so that the power of Jesus can happen through us…when a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit and experiences this overflowing of the Spirit in his or her life, we use the term, "the baptism with the Holy Spirit," to describe it.
From these words we glean the following basic differences between the first blessing of salvation, and the second blessing of the baptism – as stated by those who believe that a second blessing is necessary:
THE FIRST BLESSING – received at salvation:
It is the baptism OF the Holy Spirit.
It results in an indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus can be seen in us.
THE SECOND BLESSING – must be received in addition to salvation:
It is the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit.
It results in an overflowing of the Spirit.
The power of Jesus can happen through us.
Note in review: Those who believe in the necessity of a second blessing say that at salvation, everyone receives an INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit. They call this the baptism OF the Holy Spirit. But then a distinction is made between this indwelling we receive at salvation, and what they call the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit, which is said to be an overflow and the POWER of the Spirit. The indwelling received at salvation results in Jesus seen in us. The overflow of the second blessing results in the power of Jesus happening through us.
If you know your Bible, you should recognize that these claims are verified NOWHERE in scripture. Rather, they are the product of a tradition that has grown up, and upon experiences. People then read back into the Bible their traditions and experience, and end up in error.
Right up front, we need to understand some of the ramifications of this teaching. We are being told that at salvation we receive the gift OF the Holy Spirit, and consequently, Jesus can be seen in us. But we must go on to receive the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit, so that the power of Jesus can happen through us. Notice what this means: It means that it is possible for you and I to have Jesus in us – and for Him to be SEEN IN US – but not have the power of Jesus happen through us. We need the, "second blessing," for this.
Ask: Does this make any sense at all to you? But more importantly, does the Bible teach this? Does the Bible teach that at salvation, we receive Christ -- but unless we go on to seek a second blessing, well, yes, Jesus is IN US, and can come to be seen IN US, but the power of Jesus cannot happen through us?
No, the Bible does not teach that. I will cut to the quick on this point, although I am perhaps getting ahead of myself. The Bible teaches that the reason people can have Jesus in them, but still evidence is no power of Jesus working through them, is NOT because they lack the second blessing. Rather, it is because they haven’t submitted to Him as Lord. They have not submitted to the Cross – which is a big part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus comes to live through us – in power – only because of the work of the Cross.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. (2 Cor 4:7-11)
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Cor 12:7-10)
The Bible never teaches that POWER is a THING that you get through a second blessing, or really, through any other experience. No. Power is resurrection life. And you get the fullness of resurrection life at salvation. However, you do have to come to manifest it. Yet the way this happens is not through some second blessing. No. So how? The resurrection life is released only if your flesh is crucified with Christ. Power in Christ is the result of weakness in myself – a weakness that releases the power of Christ in and through me.
You cannot release power any other way. All power and authority, Jesus said, is in HIM. Thus, when you receive Christ, you receive all power – His power. But none of it will be evidenced in us or through us unless we come under the power of the Cross. The Cross – not some, "second blessing" – puts to death what hinders power in Christ, and makes the power of resurrection life possible.
Here we see a big danger. The teaching of the second blessing can quite possibly be used to substitute for the Cross. I think it significant that the necessity of the Cross in the life of the believer is one Truth that is most often absent from among those who teach this second blessing!
So now we see why some saved folks don’t seem to have any power, or why some people try to operate in the power of God, but end up operating in the power of religious flesh, or soul power: They have not come under the power of the Cross; the Lordship of Jesus.
If you go down through Christian history, you can boil most of the errors down into a basic three or four. And at the top of the list is a denial of, watering-down of, or a sidestepping of, the CROSS of Jesus Christ. Christian people rarely do this on purpose. What we do is grab onto a substitute for the Cross and turn it into a religious movement.
Now, let’s go back to the summary drawn from the quotes. Based on those conclusions, we can draw others. First of all, by definition, if you need a second blessing, then what is contained in that second blessing CANNOT be given in the first blessing. Do you see that? And since almost everyone who teaches the second blessing says that Acts 2 was the first occasion of the second blessing, then the only conclusion would be that all that was given in Acts 2 is not received at salvation – which would be the, "first blessing." Those things are received only in the second blessing.
If we turn to John 14 through 16, however, we read many things which Jesus said would happen, "when the Comforter comes." He could not be referring to anything other than the outpouring of Acts 2. Yet if Acts 2 is only a second blessing, rather than salvation, this would mean that all of those things the Comforter would do cannot pertain to salvation. Those things instead belong to the second blessing which ADDS to salvation. Thus, if you are, "merely saved," but have not received the second blessing, none of those things can belong to your relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit.
What are those things which Jesus promised the Comforter would do when He came? Jesus said when the Comforter came, He would:
Teach us all things. (14:26)
Remind us of the Truth. (14:26)
Testify of Jesus. (15:26)
Guide us into all Truth. (16:13)
Show us things to come. (16:13)
Glorify Jesus. (16:14)
Convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (16:8)
Are those who teach the necessity of a second blessing prepared to say that those who do not believe in a second blessing lack all of these things – despite the fact that they ARE saved? Despite the fact that Christ is in them, indeed, that the Holy Spirit dwells in them?
The fact is, all of those things Jesus promised belong to salvation – through New Testament new birth in Jesus Christ. Yet none of them were possible until the Comforter came. It is therefore inescapable that Acts 2 – when the Comforter did come -- WAS the inauguration of the new birth, and NT salvation. And once we see this, we see that Acts 2 was not a second blessing. It was the one and only promise of the Father – the one and only blessing made possible by Jesus Christ. It was salvation and every blessing God had for us.
Complete in Christ
If there is a second blessing, as described by our quotes, it is possible to receive FULLNESS of salvation – you cannot be partly saved or partly born again -- but yet not be complete in Christ. You still need a second blessing. You continue to lack much without it, despite the fact that you are born again and at one with Jesus Christ.
But the Bible teaches that if we are IN CHRIST, then we are certainly complete IN CHRIST. We still must grow, but because Christ is in us, then all we need is in us. What? Are we going to say that Jesus must add to us a second blessing lest He be insufficient? Yet that is exactly what this teaching demands.
Once we say that salvation in Christ does not equal fullness of the Spirit, or complete us in every way that God intends, we have, in fact, unwittingly trivialized Christ Himself. We are saying that we are NOT complete in Christ – but must ADD something more. This is really what the second blessing suggests.
As I stated earlier, when I was much younger, I received what, at that time, I was told, was the second blessing -- the baptism with the Holy Spirit. I readily embraced this because at the time, I feared that I was lacking something. It was actually good news to me that there was something more that was available to me. It never occurred to me that what I needed was faith, obedience, and the knowledge of the Truth. It never occurred to me that what I needed to do was submit to the Lordship of Jesus – for at the time I didn’t know what that meant.
The Bible is clear in saying that salvation means we are complete in Christ. (Col. 2:10) Nowhere in the NT do we read that, yes, we are saved, but now must go on to receive more. Why? Because there is no more. There is only Christ. All things are given freely in HIM. (Rom. 8:32)
Think about it. When we are saved, we receive WHAT? We received LIFE – new life in Jesus Christ. But new life in Christ isn’t a THING. It is Christ Himself. The Person. Once we recognize that, it is easy to see that Christ Himself, the Person carries all things – including gifts, fullness, and Truth. We really ARE complete in Him. The Holy Spirit IS Christ ministered in us. The two are as one. There isn’t Christ and then another, second blessing, necessary. Christ IS the blessing.
Salvation isn’t a THING. Salvation is LIFE – it is Christ in us. HIS resurrection life – which is in us by the Holy Spirit – carries all the gifts, all the life, all the revelation. All of it – although we will spend a lifetime having it unfolded to us. Are we to say that this new life in Christ doesn’t contain ALL there is, but that we must have yet ANOTHER experience added to us? – something in the Holy Spirit which we did NOT receive when we received Christ?
In other words, if those who teach the baptism as a second blessing are correct, we really are NOT complete in Christ when we are saved. We are incomplete, because we haven’t received the second blessing – the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit Glorifies Christ
Jesus gave a big list of things that the Holy Spirit would do when He came, in John, chapters 14 through 16. The Spirit, Jesus said, would glorify Him. Thus, one of the clues as to error on the matter of the Holy Spirit is that people begin to worship and focus on the Holy Spirit, instead of upon Jesus. The Bible never does this. Scripture talks about the Spirit of God a lot, but only as the vehicle UNTO making Jesus Lord, revealing Jesus, and doing the work of the Cross. Thus, if the Holy Spirit Himself points to Jesus, why are we pointing to the Holy Spirit?
I say this because many who suggest that we need a second blessing – even if they say that it is Jesus doing the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit – are really stating that we need to add to Christ WITH the Holy Spirit. Remember our quotes? We were told that at salvation we receive Christ in us – and He can be seen in us. But we have no power of Christ through us. We must have a second blessing – the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit -- for that. If that isn’t adding something to Christ, I don’t know what is.
This violates a basic Truth about the work of the Spirit. The Spirit always glorifies Christ AS being fully sufficient. The Spirit points to Christ AS all we need. The Spirit is NOT added to Christ to give us a complete experience. Jesus is enough. We are complete in Him.
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – these are all ONE. We don’t receive Jesus one time, and the Spirit at another – lest we be lacking having only received Christ. But once you say that receiving Christ leaves you short of the fullness, except you be additionally baptized with the Holy Spirit BY Jesus, it comes down to that in the end.
The moment we say we must be baptized WITH the Spirit, even by Jesus, to be complete, we are unwittingly glorifying the Spirit. We are saying that the very Spirit whose sole purpose is to glorify Jesus must be added to Jesus, or Jesus will not be completely glorified. This seems to me to be a contradiction.
Let’s turn to one of the major distinctions made by those who teach a second blessing – the matter of the INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit. Proponents of the second blessing readily admit that at salvation the Holy Spirit comes to indwell the believer. But they say that it is only through the second blessing that there can be an overflow with power. Consequently, as it pertains to the disciples of Christ, proponents of the second blessing say that the disciples were already INDWELT by the Holy Spirit before Jesus ascended – because they were already saved. They therefore say that what happened in Acts 2 could not have been an indwelling. No. They say it was the overflow with power – the second blessing.
But here’s the big question: If Acts 2 is a second blessing, then when did the disciples receive their first blessing? If Acts 2 is an overflow added to an existing indwelling, then when did the disciples receive that indwelling? If Acts 2 is something added to Christ, when did the disciples receive Christ? If Acts 2 is in addition to a new birth, when were the disciples born again prior to Acts 2?
The answer? Acts 2 was not a second blessing, but the first and only for the disciples. Acts 2 was the first time the Holy Spirit ever came to INDWELL anyone. Before Acts 2, an indwelling was impossible. Thus, Acts 2 was not a second blessing. It was the disciples FIRST and ONLY blessing through Jesus Christ.
This will not be difficult to prove. First of all, Jesus said outright that the Holy Spirit was NOT in them. Get that. The Holy Spirit, according to Jesus, did not yet DWELL in them. Indeed, Jesus said that an indwelling would not be possible until Acts 2.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but you know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you. "(John 14:16-17)
Add to this another Truth: The Holy Spirit, despite being with them, did not come to dwell in them until Jesus ascended. In short, an indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit was impossible before Acts 2 because Christ was bodily present with them. Jesus repeatedly told them this: He said, "The Comforter cannot come while I am here." (see John 7:39 and John 16:7) Thus, Jesus had to ascend before they could have an indwelling – and therefore the indwelling is what happened in Acts 2 – not merely an adding of an overflow.
So if we had only those two proofs, we would know for sure two things:
First, the Holy Spirit could not be given until Acts 2 – Jesus had to first ascend.
Secondly, when the Holy Spirit came to in Acts 2, He came to permanently DWELL in God’s people – something He had never done before.
Do you see that? Acts 2 describes the first coming of the Holy Spirit to INDWELL anyone. Thus, the disciples were not indwelt before Acts 2. Acts 2 was therefore NOT an overflow with power ADDED to an indwelling. No. Acts 2 WAS the indwelling. Therefore, Acts 2 was not a second blessing, but the one and only blessing – indwelling and potential for overflow all in one.
But weren’t the disciples saved prior to Acts 2? Yes, but under the OT, according to John’s baptism. They were not, however, born again. They did not have Christ IN THEM. Read John 14:15-26. Jesus promises the indwelling – all in the future, at the time the Comforter comes in what would be the Pentecost of Acts 2.
This proves Acts 2 is not a second blessing – simply because there had been no first blessing. There had been no indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No new birth. Just OT salvation. Thus, what we find in Acts 2 is the first and only blessing and promise – included in which was indwelling, overflow, gifts, and everything else which comes in us when Jesus, through the Spirit, comes to dwell in us.
Now, if you will go back to the quotes I gave from the minister who teaches a second blessing, you will note that he says that through salvation we receive an INDWELLING of the Holy Spirit. This is the supposed, "first blessing." But only through the second blessing – the baptism WITH the Spirit – does he say we can receive the overflow and power. But according to Jesus, in Acts 2 they received the INDWELLING. Therefore, according to Jesus, that day of Pentecost was the FIRST blessing – the indwelling. Acts 2 is therefore not a second blessing. It is exactly what Jesus called it: THE promise of the Father.
Can we see from this that Acts 2 cannot be describing a second blessing – an overflow added onto an indwelling they already had? No. They never had an indwelling before Acts 2 – no one had! Acts 2 describes the coming of the Spirit, in a brand new way, to dwell in God’s people forever! It describes the FIRST and ONLY blessing – included in which are all the gifts we see that resulted.
My point is this: Whatever is the work of the Holy Spirit – whether you want to call it a baptism OF, IN, or WITH the Holy Spirit – it happened that day in Acts 2. All of it did. Not just the first part of it, or just the second blessing. ALL of it. That day marked the beginning of something new. The Holy Spirit, who had never come before to dwell in people, came that day and did exactly that. It marked the beginning of everything God had for His church – all in one blessing.
And that ONE blessing continues today. Receive Christ and you are receiving ALL that God has for you – indwelling, overflow, power, gifts, and everything else – in this one blessing of the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit.
Receive You the Holy Spirit
And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive you the Holy Ghost: (John 20:22)
There have been some people who have pointed to John 20:22 to prove that the disciples had an indwelling of the Holy Spirit before Pentecost, and therefore, Pentecost was a second blessing – this despite the fact that Jesus had already directly said that the Holy Spirit was only WITH them, but could not yet be IN them until Pentecost. This false assumption is then applied to us, saying that our salvation makes us like them before Pentecost – we merely have an indwelling of the Holy Spirit – but we need to go on to seek, "our Pentecost" – in other words, our second blessing.
What about it? Jesus is clearly telling them to receive the Holy Spirit – weeks before Pentecost. Wasn’t that a FIRST blessing? And therefore, doesn’t this prove that what they received on Pentecost was a second blessing?
This event in John 20:22 isn’t a first blessing at all. If you read the verse in context, it is as a benediction Jesus is pronouncing upon them for service -- and to comfort them and assure them. He is telling them that the Holy Spirit is WITH them and they need to be comforted by the fact.
Note that Jesus is wishing them peace and telling them He is sending them out. He also tells them about certain authority they will have. This is all in preparation for what would happen for real on Pentecost. If you doubt this, then why didn’t the disciples get up and go out at that moment? Why didn’t they start preaching? Jesus said He was sending them, didn’t He? But no. In fact, Jesus would later tell them to tarry in Jerusalem and wait.
I believe that when Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Spirit that He was telling them to presently embrace the Holy Spirit’s presence with them – something that had always been. They needed this at this time. He was encouraging them to receive the reality of the Holy Spirit with them, in anticipation of a greater event.
This is the only answer. Jesus had already made the distinction between what was and what would be – He said the Holy Spirit was WITH them, but would be IN them. (Jn. 14:17) Therefore, John 20:22 cannot be referring to any kind of indwelling at all. No. Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit being WITH them -- in OT fashion. Only when Pentecost came, would the Holy Spirit be IN them.
Now, again -- this MUST be true because, as mentioned earlier, Jesus clearly stated that the Holy Spirit could NOT come until He ascended. Until then, He stated the Holy Spirit would only be WITH them, but not IN them. Therefore, since He had not yet ascended, John 20:22 cannot be talking about an indwelling. Rather, He is talking about the Holy Spirit being WITH them. In short, Jesus was giving them what they needed to carry them through to Acts 2.
These are facts that must be faced. I mean, what are we to say, that the Holy Spirit had not yet come -- had not yet come to be IN them -- but they were nevertheless INDWELT by the Holy Spirit? You can see that this is impossible. The facts are that the Holy Spirit had NOT YET come, and was therefore INDWELLING no one. He was merely WITH the disciples. This is what is being described in John 20:22.
So instead of saying that John 20:22 describes a first blessing of the Spirit – which corresponds to our salvation today – and then saying that Pentecost describes a second blessing – which corresponds to the baptism with the Holy Spirit – we see that there is another answer. John 20:22 corresponds to the OT, where the Spirit was WITH them. Pentecost corresponds to the new birth and indwelling by the Holy Spirit – which are included in the ONE and ONLY experience. There is no need for a second blessing. We receive all when we receive Christ.
We have quoted Jesus as saying that the Holy Spirit could not come as He eventually did in Acts 2 BEFORE Jesus ascended. Indeed, it was the ascension and enthronement of Jesus as Lord of all that made it possible for the Comforter to come.
Why? Because when Jesus ascended and took His place at the right hand of God, it was the consummation of His Redemptive work. He had lived, died, and been raised. Jesus’ ascension seated Him as Lord of all. It was then, and only then, possible to send forth the Spirit to make Jesus Lord to us and in us. Indeed, the Spirit descended precisely because Jesus ascended.
The Holy Spirit was the spiritual equivalent, in us, of the bodily presence of Jesus among us. Indeed, Jesus actually referred a number of times to the coming of the Comforter as being synonymous to His coming back spiritually, and even to the Father coming to live in us. Again, the Holy Spirit’s coming in Acts 2 is only possible because of Jesus’ ascension in Acts 1.
The coming of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 was the inauguration of a new age. It was the very outpouring through the Holy Spirit of ALL that Jesus had made possible. Indeed, it was the coming of the kingdom of God; the indwelling of Christ Himself; the new birth for the first time. It was all of those things – which are ONE thing. God had come to INDWELL His people. This cannot be diced up – divided into separate blessings.
Thus, we see that Acts 2 was not a, "second blessing," for those disciples. No. None of Jesus’ redemptive work was possible through an indwelling until AFTER He ascended in Acts 1. Only then was an indwelling possible – rather than just a presence. Only then could there be a new birth. Only then could salvation be more than a legal classification as in the OT. The fact that ALL that Jesus did could not be ministered IN US until Acts 2 proves that Acts 2 is the WHOLE deal – the one and only blessing.
What Jesus accomplished through His redemptive work, and the fact that it is ministered through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, cannot be chopped up into two blessings. Never. God has ALL to give us IN CHRIST – and it is all received at salvation when we receive Christ. Once we begin to see the Truth about this, it becomes clear as to the nonsense of saying otherwise.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor 1:30-31)
The "In Between" Condition
The Book of Acts accurately records events that happened roughly between 30 A.D. and 65 A.D.. This was a very unique period of time in the history of God’s purpose for a number of reasons. But with regards to this second blessing question, Acts describes events which happened during an, "in between time" – a transition time -- in the plan of God.
What do I mean by that term, "in between time?" Well, before Acts 2, there were many people who were baptized with John’s baptism, but nothing more. We see four instances of this in Acts – four instances of people who were baptized with John’s baptism, but who had not received the Holy Spirit. John’s baptism was all that they could receive until Jesus ascended. They had been baptized only for the remission of sins, but had not received the Holy Spirit.
Can we see how these folks were caught in an, "in between time?" They had received John’s baptism, but not the Spirit. Thus, once Acts 2 came, some were still in that condition. They therefore had to go on to receive the Spirit.
But these people were in a unique condition -- a condition that would never be possible again. If you were alive during this time, and had been baptized by John, but were not in that upper room in Acts 2, you would, we could say, still need the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. We do find several instances in Acts of folks just like that. But once everyone who had been baptized for the remission of sins finally received the baptism with the Holy Spirit, there would no longer we anyone who was in this, "in between," condition. Everyone was then fully under the New Covenant, and received all from the start through the new birth.
But you see, if we take these instances from Acts, of these folks in this unique situation, and try to say their condition is typical of OURS, we end up in error. We are not under the OT, merely saved by anticipation of the Savior, waiting for Acts 2. We are not saved merely by a baptism for the remission of sins, and continue to need a second blessing. No. And the Bible never suggests that we are in that condition. Do those who teach the second blessing actually believe that those who have not received it are in the same condition as those who were baptized with John’s baptism, but not with the Holy Spirit?
The people in Acts who were baptized with John’s baptism, but not in the upper room, had a need, if you will, for a further baptism. But this was only because they were in, "the in between," or transitional time. But we are not in that situation or condition. From the start, THE ONE PROMISE of the Father has been available to us. We don’t need a second blessing because if we are saved, we have received THE blessing. We are not under the baptism of John. We have received Jesus Christ and are born again.
Issues like this are one reason why we must remember that Acts is a NARRATIVE and not a DOCTRINAL book. Every word is inspired of God – but it simply records what happened, most of the time without commentary. We must go to the epistles for direct teaching, and there we find NOTHING about a second blessing. Rather, we find that we are complete in Christ – who is THE blessing.
The New Birth
This Truth actually ties directly into the NEW BIRTH itself. The new birth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, through the baptism with the Holy Spirit – these go together and are really the same thing. If Christ is in you through the indwelling of the Spirit, then you are born again. What? Do we think that Christ could be in us, and we NOT be born again?
It was possible, of course, to be saved under the Old Covenant. But not born again. There was NO indwelling of the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant. The Holy Spirit was WITH people, but not in them. They OT people were saved through their faith in Christ – but as expressed through the sacrifices that pointed towards Him. Thus, there was legal salvation. But no LIVING indwelling.
Now incidentally, this does not mean that the OT saints were LESS than us. No, they were accountable for the light they were given, and accountable to live up to the Covenant assigned. This makes the equal to us eternally, even if their experience was on another basis. Actually, rather then say they were less than we, we ought to realize how much more responsible we are for the light and revelation we have today.
If we read Colossians, and many other places, we find that the new birth, the reality of the Body of Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit, were all part of a, "mystery," which had not been fully revealed, let alone given, until the NT era:
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Col 1:24-27)
A, "mystery," in NT times, was something formerly hidden, but THEN being made manifest. Never before had Christ dwelt IN people – we saw this stated directly by Jesus Himself. And never before was it possible for people to become NEW CREATIONS. Why? Because Jesus had not yet come and completed His redemptive work, and because as we saw, Jesus had not yet ascended. Only when that was done, was the Spirit given, and all of what Jesus did made possible IN US – rather than simply with us or to us.
The church itself did not begin until Acts 2. And isn’t the church made up of people IN WHOM Christ dwells? Sure. Thus, Christ did not dwell in people before Acts 2, and there was no church before Acts 2.
Can we see that Acts 2 was the beginning of a new age? Acts 2 began the new birth, the indwelling, the church, the New Covenant, and the last days. Acts 2 was therefore NOT a second blessing – something God added to the disciples to give them power for service. Rather, Acts 2 was the very first time that the FIRST and ONLY blessing and promise of the Father was given! There is NO second blessing. Everything God has for us is given in Christ through this baptism with the Holy Spirit at salvation.
Actually, once we understand that the new birth was not possible until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, many other passages begin to make sense, and tie together. For instance, turn to John 3 and read the description of Jesus as to HOW to be born again. He said, "You must be, "born of water and of Spirit." (John 3:5) The WATER signifies your death in Christ; your relinquishment of your old life and your burial. The SPIRIT signifies your resurrection in Christ. You must have BOTH or the new birth is NOT complete in Jesus Christ.
But under John’s baptism, you were born, we could say, only OF WATER. You couldn’t be born OF SPIRIT – because Jesus was not yet raised, nor had He ascended. Thus, under John’s baptism, you could be, "born," of water – the death part -- but not born of Spirit – the new life part. The resurrection – and then ascension of Christ -- was needed, to make resurrection life by the Spirit possible. This is why these people were in this, "in between condition."
Were these people saved? They were legally saved and forgiven on the basis of the Old Covenant, and in anticipation of the Savior whom John preached. They WERE born of water – waiting for Jesus. But the Holy Spirit was only WITH them, and not in them. This is not to minimize their condition, but they were NOT born again -- which was only made possible later.
Those who had been baptized for the remission of sins, but were not in the upper room, or didn’t know, were the ONLY PEOPLE who were ever in that particular, "in between," position. For everyone who had previously died before Acts 2 were saved under the Old Covenant. They were never given the chance to be born again. But everyone who was converted afresh after Acts 2 were fully under the New Covenant. Thus, they could be born again from the start. But we have these few folks in Acts who had been baptized with water before Acts 2, but had not been baptized with the Holy Spirit. They were unique – they were in an IN BETWEEN condition.
This is precisely why we see in Acts some people who seem to have part of the whole experience, but still need the Spirit. They had to be brought under the fullness of the New Covenant. But does anyone believe that we can be in condition today – baptized under the Old Covenant for salvation, and yet not under the New Covenant because we haven’t received a second blessing? Nonsense. There is no longer any possibility of an, "in between," condition. No. We are entirely under the NEW Covenant, and consequently, the fullness of the Spirit is given to us at salvation!
Baptized WITH or IN?
We saw earlier how proponents of the second blessing make a distinction between being baptized IN the Holy Spirit – which they agree happens at salvation for everyone -- and being baptized WITH the Holy Spirit – which, according to them, is not given at salvation. This is the second blessing, and necessary for power, many gifts, and great witness. Let’s look at these terms and see how the Bible uses them.
The phrase, "baptized WITH the Holy Ghost," actually occurs only ONCE – in Matthew 3:11 and it’s parallel accounts. All of the other places are either references to this one mention, or as stated, parallel accounts to Matthew 3:11. The two most important references are below:
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Mat 3:11)
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, says he, you have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)
Here we see John telling us that Jesus will baptize us WITH the Holy Spirit. And in Acts, Jesus references John, and His words prove to us that what happened in Acts 2 WAS Jesus baptizing them WITH the Holy Spirit.
Get that: Acts 2 was the fulfillment of what John promised. Jesus said so. In Acts 2 Jesus baptized the disciples with the Holy Spirit – and with fire.
This also means that everything we have stated about the new birth – the fact that the disciples could not have been born again BEFORE Acts 2 – is true. John the Baptist is clearly stating that his baptism by water was NOT the whole experience – they still needed baptized with the Spirit and with fire. And Jesus bears Him out in Acts 1:4-5. Thus, as stated – we have a group of disciples who, before Acts 2, were born of water, but NOT of Spirit. They still needed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit – and would be in Acts 2. They were in an, "in between condition."
I’ve said all of that to prove the obvious: Acts 2 was the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit and fire. No one would take issue with that. But the question once again becomes this: Is Acts 2 a SECOND blessing? Is the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 a second blessing – or is it, as we will prove, representative of the one and only blessing of new birth, gift of the Holy Spirit, and the only experience any of us will need?
To find out, let’s continue on looking at the terms, "baptism OF the Holy Spirit," vs. "the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit." Our quotes by the minister who teaches the second blessing stated that these two terms actually distinguish between the first and second blessing.
We have already looked at the references for, "baptized WITH the Holy Ghost," which is supposed to be the second blessing. We found one unique reference. But where does the Bible use the phrase, "baptized IN the Holy Ghost?" – as a distinct phrase?
No place. The phrase is not used once in scripture. And I don’t simply mean that the phrase isn’t used to indicate a first blessing, as opposed to a second. No. I mean the phrase, "baptism OF the Holy Spirit," isn’t used at ALL!
That’s right. You will not find the phrase, "the baptism OF the Holy Ghost," in the Bible. Nor will you find, "the baptism IN the Holy Ghost?" This is significant, because it means that scripture really only uses ONE term to describe the coming of the Holy Spirit into a person’s life: The baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. God uses ONE term because there is only ONE baptism – only ONE blessing.
So we see here that any doctrines built based on these words are nonsense because there is only ONE term used in the Bible: The Baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. And that term isn’t a second blessing. It is the ONE and ONLY blessing, or baptism.
There are, however, other phrases or terms used, to describe the baptism with the Holy Spirit. But if we look at them, they serve to support that the baptism with the Holy Spirit – or if you prefer, IN or OF or BY – are all the same baptism we receive at salvation:
A pivot passage is found right in Acts 2, immediately after the baptism WITH the Holy Spirit:
Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2:36-38)
Peter had just preached the very first sermon under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The very FIRST one. The crowds were brought to repentance. They asked what they needed to do. Peter gave the above answer, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
First of all, can we see that Peter is talking about the full possibility of being born again of both WATER and SPIRIT? Sure. If, at this point in time, you had only been baptized with water – with John’s baptism – you would still need to go on to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, as the disciples were in Acts 2, and as a few others were in the book of Acts. But if you had not been born of water through John’s baptism, as was the case with most of the people to whom Peter was preaching that day, you were not in an, "in between condition." You could start afresh and be born both of water and Spirit that day, and in doing so, receive ALL that God had for you in Christ Jesus.
Carefully read again Peter’s words. There is no mention of a second blessing. He preaches to them Jesus Christ crucified, raised, and ascended. It is upon THAT basis that He tells them to repent and receive the gift of the Spirit. These people had never been saved to that point. They weren’t asking for a second blessing. They were seeking salvation itself. Peter’s answer is God’s answer to THAT heart cry.
We see in Peter’s answer NO hint of the need to first repent, receive Christ, receive an INDWELLING, and then, in addition, the need to receive yet another baptism WITH the Holy Spirit! No. The crowds asked, "What shall we do?" Peter says, "Repent, be baptized, and you shall receive – in other words, IF you repent and believe, this is what is going to happen – you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
It is utter nonsense to suggest that Peter was offering these people an indwelling without an overflow, or to say that he was offering them an overflow only. They were not saved! What he offered was salvation – which included BOTH the indwelling and the potential for all overflow. Can we see that ALL is being offered in ONE blessing at salvation? All. And why wouldn’t all be offered? Any suggestion otherwise is error.
Note what Peter goes onto say after he tells them to repent and receive the Spirit. He says, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:39)
Now anyway you want to slice it, if you say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second blessing, and that this is what is happening in Acts 2, you will then have to admit that there is not ONE promise, but TWO. There would be the promise of salvation, but then the promise of the second blessing. Read Acts 2 all over again. Does it really suggest that? No. There is ONE promise – THE promise of the Father – and Peter says that THIS is what the crowds are seeing. He is telling them that this ONE promise is also offered to them. They need to repent and believe, and they will receive that ONE promise.
Note the clear words of Jesus immediately before His ascension:
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:46-49)
The gospel is ALL ONE PROMISE. It is the message Peter preached that first day. It is a gospel of repentance and remission of sins through the shed Blood of Christ. And unto those who repent and believe, there is the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, which is the agency of eternal life – both the indwelling and overflow. This is the ONE promise.
Now, let’s move on to look more closely at the terms Peter used that day: In telling them what they needed to do, Peter did not use the term BAPTISM WITH or BAPTIZE WITH. Neither did he use BAPTISM OF, BAPTISM BY, or BAPTISM IN. He used the phrase RECEIVE THE GIFT. The question is therefore what he meant by that term.
The answer is easy to discover: The whole sermon of the apostle Peter on that day was referencing the outpouring of the Spirit that day, and what it meant. Read the entire chapter of Acts 2 and you will see that this is true. When the crowds asked what these manifestations of tongues and other things meant, Peter said, "THIS is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel…" (Acts 2:16)…Peter answered, "God has shed forth THIS, which you now see and hear." (Acts 2:33) So when Peter said to them, "Repent….and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," he was telling them that they would ALSO receive what they were witnessing among the disciples – that very same experience, which we have seen is the Baptism WITH the Holy Spirit.
In this we see that the phrase RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is referencing exactly the same thing as is the phrase THE BAPTISM WITH THE HOLY GHOST. Peter said so. Again – we are not on stable ground establishing Biblical Truth using words like, "WITH, IN, OF, and BY," to draw distinctions. There is ONE blessing because there is ONE baptism with the Holy Spirit – and this is synonymous with, "receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Let’s add one more point. Jesus described the baptism with the Holy Spirit in another way, right in Acts 1. He said, "When the Holy Ghost is come upon you." Here we see yet another way of describing this baptism with the Holy Spirit. But really, does the phrase, "come upon you," sound like a BAPTISM? No. Baptism is immersion. "Come upon you," sort of pictures something falling down on you. Someone could take those two phrases and turn them into two different experiences. Yet the two phrases are describing the SAME event – the same baptism WITH the Holy Sprit.
All of these phrases are speaking of the SAME experience – that of the coming of the Holy Spirit into the life of someone. There are not TWO baptisms, experiences, or blessings. The Bible describes ONE using many terms. There is ONE baptism – one blessing.
This is verified by the complete silence of the epistles about the necessity of a second blessing. There is not a single passage that exhorts Christians who have received only salvation to go on to receive a baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. You cannot find it. Every place that the Holy Spirit is mentioned, there is merely an exhortation to obey, keep being filled, or other positive elements of life in the Spirit are mentioned. But not a SECOND blessing. For an issue that is so divisive in Christianity today, this alone ought to indicate plenty.
Always take note of what the NT is silent about, but what Christians turn into major doctrines or movements. There is something wrong about that.
There are a couple of other terms. If you read through the book of Acts, you will most often find the baptism of the Holy Spirit described in such terms as, "they RECEIVED the Holy Ghost," – which is what Peter promised to those crowds on Pentecost. And most often, in describing people who have already received the baptism, the phrase, "filled with the Holy Ghost," is used. But never is there a distinction made between merely receiving an INDWELLING vs. an OVERFLOWING. Never is there a distinction between being baptized WITH the Spirit, vs. being baptized OF, or IN, or BY the Spirit. And at the risk of sounding redundant, there is a reason for this: Receiving the Holy Spirit IS equal to being baptized WITH the Holy Spirit. It happens ALL IN ONE BLESSING – at salvation.
What Began on Pentecost?
Several things began on Pentecost. But one of them was NOT salvation. LEGAL salvation was possible under the Old Covenant – pointing ahead to Jesus. By following God’s ordinances, sacrificing animals, and repenting of sin, you could be saved legally – in anticipation of the true Lamb of God. John’s baptism was the best example of this. But as we have seen, you were not born again.
Now, despite no new birth, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit was with people, indeed, there are phrases that even suggest they were FILLED with wisdom, the spirit, etc. But this is just another reason why it is sometimes dangerous to build doctrines by taking words out of context. They were NOT filled the same way as was possible after Pentecost. Jesus said so – the Holy Spirit had been WITH people, but not IN them. Thus, those in the OT were filled only in the sense possible for them under that covenant.
Now, that aside, what DID Pentecost in Acts 2 begin? First, that day began the new birth. We have covered this ground and so we leave it there. But once we realize that, and put it together with some other things that began that day, we start to get a whole picture. For the second thing that Pentecost began was THE CHURCH – the body of Christ. Because Christ was no longer bodily on earth, the Holy Spirit in people would now be on earth. The church would be the instrument by which Christ was here, and the church would be God’s witness unto Him.
This is important to see. Jesus Christ was not bodily present once He ascended. Instead, the Body of Christ was present -- starting with Acts 2. And the Body of Christ WAS Christ – howbeit in people through the Holy Spirit. The church would be God’s witness of Christ.
My point is this: The church began on Acts 2. No one denies this Truth. But if Acts 2 was the second blessing, (because the disciples were already born again) then it was the second blessing that began the church. This would mean that if you are saved, but don’t have the second blessing, you are not in the Body – are not in the church. Not even those who teach the second blessing dare to suggest that!
The only solution is that Acts 2 was the one and only blessing, come for the first time. On that occasion, the church was born, because the disciples were born again. That day, they were born of the Spirit, baptized into Christ, received the gifts, and became the church – due to this baptism with the Holy Spirit. All together in ONE blessing.
Paul said, "by ONE Spirit we are baptized into ONE body." What body? The Body of Christ. Even those who insist on the necessity of a second blessing would agree that when you are saved, you are at that point baptized INTO CHRIST, and therefore INTO the Body of Christ. But if that is so, how, might we ask, is it possible to be baptized by ONE Spirit into ONE Body, but nevertheless NOT be baptized WITH the Holy Spirit? – because you must still go on to receive a second blessing?
The church began in Acts 2 because ALL was given in Acts 2. The Spirit had not been given before that day, and nothing was left over to receive after that day. Thus, here we are, back to the only conclusion possible: There is ONE blessing – at salvation. It began in Acts 2, and that ONE experience is the baptism with the Holy Spirit, wherein we receive all the gifts, all the power, and most of all, all of the PERSON in whom all of these things reside: Jesus Christ.
Before moving forward, I want to mention one picture in the Bible, and do it briefly. The crossing of the Jordan by Israel, into the promised land, is commonly recognized as the equivalent of the NT day of Pentecost. They were entering a NEW realm through the Jordan that was separate from their deliverance from Egypt through the Red Sea. This is often pointed to as proof that there is, in fact, a second blessing.
But let’s ask: Had God already given them the promised land? Sure. He had given it to them before any of them were born – through Abraham. So they really didn’t need a second blessing, did they? No. What they needed was to believe and obey the first and only promise of God – which forty years before they did not do. They did finally believe when they crossed the Jordan. But when they believed, they entered into only that which God had already given them long before.
My point? We don’t need a second blessing. What we need is the realization and release of the FIRST and only blessing. We need to see the fullness of what God has given us in Christ, and then to move into it. We need to BELIEVE and OPEN ourselves to the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
This is where coming under the Lordship of Jesus Christ is important. Jesus is our Lord whether we live like it or not. But the crossing of the Jordan is representative of having come to the place where we finally back up the words we said at salvation with practical surrender. We have been brought to that place after we go through, "our wilderness," of depletion and reduction. We are ready to LIVE in a new realm because we have been emptied of that which hindered it through, "our wilderness."
Note: We don’t RECEIVE something more – in the form of a second blessing. No. We are simply brought to the place where the inheritance God has always had for us can be released, experienced, and lived – because we are beginning to do more than talk about our promised land of life in Christ. We are entering it – He is now Lord of our life. This is our, "promised land."
Do we see this? God has already given us all things in Christ. The need is not to receive more, or a second blessing. The need is to be brought to the place where we believe and obey the FIRST. Sometimes the wilderness is necessary to get us to the place where we will do that. And IF we do, we cross the Jordan. But how? By faith in God’s ONE promise – not via some second, additional blessing.
You will not find any suggestion that God every added to Israel more than He promised to Abraham – and He promised Abraham a full inheritance through THE SEED. There wasn’t MORE to receive later. Rather, God dealt with Israel in a way that enabled them to enter into the fullness of inheritance that had already been given them through Abraham. In short, instead of adding more inheritance – a second blessing -- God had to reduce Israel down to where they could live in the one inheritance He had for them.
We’ve seen that Jesus told His disciples that the Comforter could not come unless He ascended. He told them that the Holy Spirit had been WITH them, but not yet IN them. That was to be the distinction of Pentecost.
We have likewise seen that these facts do away with saying that the disciples had an indwelling BEFORE Pentecost, and that Pentecost was a second blessing – the supposed overflowing. No. The disciples never had an indwelling UNTIL Pentecost, and Jesus words prove it. Thus, Pentecost, rather than a second blessing on top of an indwelling they already had, was inauguration of THE INDWELLING. And that indwelling in Acts 2 resulted in an overflow.
But there is even MORE that we need to see. This was mentioned earlier in reference to being complete in Christ. It is this: Have we recognized that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a THING we receive? Not an experience? No. It is a PERSON.
When Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, He did not discard His humanity. No, He forever remains the God-man. That is why He remains our high priest. Thus, while in bodily form here on earth, the disciples could not receive Christ, because He was bodily with them. Jesus in the flesh cannot be received spiritually. The way in which we actually receive Christ is through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling.
This is why Jesus said that He had to go, so that the Comforter would come. He had to ascend bodily, so that He could come spiritually via the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would be – spiritually IN us – all that Jesus was bodily among us.
The Holy Spirit is the very life of Christ ministered IN US. The Holy Spirit takes everything of Jesus and reveals Him to us, and makes Him able to be experienced. One word captures all of this: Resurrection life. But again, resurrection life isn’t a THING. It is a Person. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life."
Christianity is ONENESS or UNION with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It is not a legal classification, or a position only. It is LIFE IN CHRIST – because we are one with Him. All of this is ministered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Now, I’ve stated all of that to get to this point: When we are born again, it is because we have received a PERSON. When we are baptized by, with, or in – pick your term – the Holy Spirit, we are NOT receiving POWER as a, "THING!" No, we are receiving a Person, whose presence in us IS POWER.
Here’s what I’m getting at: Is it possible to have Christ in us -- resurrection life -- and yet no power? I mean, sure, we might not have power because we are not believing and obeying. But I what I am asking is whether Christ in us – and Him alone -- carries the potential for power? I would hope so. So then why do we need MORE power? – a second blessing? And how, as the proponents of the second blessing claim, is it possible to have power in Christ to the effect that He can be seen in us, but no power to work through us?
If power were a THING, maybe we could say we don’t get it all at salvation. But power is a PERSON, and salvation is that same PERSON. Thus, if we receive the Person of Christ at salvation – and Christ said, "ALL POWER has been given to me, " – then we have all POWER in Him. Sure, we still have to come under His Lordship – we have to live and move practically under His power. But nothing needs to be added – we must live in what we have already been given. We potentially have received all when we receive Christ.
The reason people don’t exhibit power is because they aren’t under the Lordship of Jesus. They are saved, but still living on their own terms. It isn’t a second blessing that they need. It is faith and obedience – and the CROSS – that they need. This is what the Bible teaches.
Another question: Is it possible to receive PART of a PERSON? In other words, can we receive an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, but not have the POWER? This is exactly what is being taught by those who demand a second blessing. They are saying that we can be born again, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit – the Person in whom there is all power of resurrection life in Christ – and yet NOT have the fullness. Or much power. We must go on to seek more.
You see, there just isn’t any argument – logically or from scripture – that holds up here. There isn’t a single indication in any of the epistles that remotely suggests that you can receive an indwelling, but not an overflow, or that there is a difference between the baptism OF the Spirit, and the baptism WITH the Spirit. There is not a suggestion that there is less than ALL POWER in Christ.
No. There is ONE Spirit, ONE Lord, ONE faith, and ONE baptism, says Paul. (see Eph. 4:4-5) He says that by ONE Spirit we are baptized into ONE Body. (I Cor. 12:13) We always read about ONE Person and ONE experience with Him. We don’t read about TWO, or the possibility of having a first blessing, but not a second.
Furthermore, we NEVER find a hint in scripture to the effect that some Christians HAVE a fullness of the Spirit that others do not have. But what we DO find are Christians who are not living in the fullness of the Spirit that is already given them – because of unbelief, deception, or disobedience. We DO find Christians who are in legalism and dead religion. We find some who are grieving the Spirit, or who have hindered the freedom of the Spirit. But never are we told that any of these problems can be traced back to having received ONLY a first blessing, but not a second. This is because there is NO second blessing to miss. There is only a first blessing – and some people stifle it’s fullness.
The problem with Christians is that we are not believing and obeying God. We are not living in the fullness of what God has given. The problem is not the lack of a second blessing.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, in whom there is the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is therefore not a THING to experience. It is a PERSON to experience. We are IMMERSED in the Spirit of God – born of water and Spirit – and as born again creations, sons of God, we inherit ALL that God has for us.
Jesus had promised the Comforter would come once He ascended, and once the Comforter came, He would be in God’s people forever. Without dispute, this is exactly what happened in Acts 2. But can we see that if the Comforter CAME, and it was predicated upon Jesus taking His place as Lord of lords in heaven, that ALL of the Person of the Holy Spirit – the fullness – came? How then can we break the experience of the Holy Spirit up into TWO parts – and say that He comes to us in a limited way at salvation, but only in fullness if we go on to seek a second blessing? No. If the Comforter came, then it is all or nothing – first and only blessing or nothing. Not, first blessing, and the necessity for a second.
The Work of the Spirit
Ask most people as to what defines the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and they will say, "The sign gifts." Both the charismatics and non-charismatics will generally tell you that tongues, prophecy, visions, healings, miracles, and many other supernatural manifestations, are the things which define this baptism. The charismatics will say that they have these things because they were, "open," to the Spirit and received the second blessing. The non-charismatics will say that this claim is bogus, and that what the charismatics seem to have are false gifts, i.e., the product of religious fanaticism.
The trouble is, that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, while it includes the gifts and possibilities, has to do with much more than gifts. Indeed, the CORE of it – what it is really all about – puts the gifts in their proper place. And that place for the gifts is hardly at the center of things. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is all about Jesus Christ. When we receive this baptism, and we receive it AT SALVATION, the Holy Spirit begins to do all of the things Jesus said He would do, "when the Comforter comes." (see John 14-16) And if you read those passages, you will not see a mention of any gifts. No. It is all about Jesus.
The Holy Spirit wants to reveal Christ – and to make Christ Lord of each of US. That is the purpose of this baptism. And that work will make us WITNESSES unto Christ. Yet those who claim to have received the second blessing today rarely even talk about this. They rarely mention the things the Holy Spirit was promised to do. Instead, we have a focus on signs and wonders, miracles, and the sign gifts. This focus – and this is an important point – all in itself ought to show us that the Holy Spirit is NOT moving in those circles. Why? Because where the Holy Spirit moves the Holy Spirit is not the focus! Where the Holy Spirit moves, the gifts do not become the center! Where the Holy Spirit is working, you do not have what we see on TBN. Instead, when the Holy Spirit is working we have the Person of Jesus exalted – yes – but a work going on wherein Jesus Christ is made Lord of each person – both internally and externally.
Anywhere that the Holy Spirit is allowed to move, Jesus Christ will become the obsession! People will be taken up with HIM – with the work of the Cross, and the power, not of signs and wonders, but with the power of His resurrection life. The gifts are to work unto THIS end! The gifts never call attention to the gifts, or to the people using them! The gifts are to EDIFY IN JESUS CHRIST.
It is a danger signal when signs and wonders and gifts become THE THING. It is a danger signal with those things characterize a move of God. No! Holiness, faith and obedience, and the Truth of God in Jesus Christ are the outcomes of coming under the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And yes, the gifts will be there – but as the means unto the end and purpose of Christ.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a THING I receive or an experience I receive. I am baptized WITH, and INTO, a PERSON. And the purpose of that baptism is to make me at one with that Person, Jesus Christ. This will make HIM my Lord, and me His servant. It will change and adjust everything about me over to that relationship. Anything else and things are off the track.
Terms to Meet?
Those who teach the second blessing do, in fact, teach that you must meet certain terms before you can receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit – which is in addition to your salvation. To illustrate, let me once again quote the same person quoted earlier on this issue:
So these are the terms by which a person can receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit: Obedience, humility, purity, and receiving: wanting God’s will, wanting God’s way, wanting God’s nature, and wanting God’s fullness.
Now notice the implications of this statement: Those who HAVE received the second blessing got it because they met those terms. Those who HAVEN’T received it, apparently didn’t meet those terms. Do we really believe that the millions of people who do not believe in a second blessing don’t want God’s will or His way? Or that those who claim to be charismatic DO – and only they DO? What are the fruits of the modern charismatic movement? God’s will and way?
Again – we don’t need to meet these terms in order to receive a second blessing. What we need is to begin submitting to Jesus as Lord of our lives, and submit to what the baptism we have received already holds. The reason some saved people do not seem to have much power or overflow of the Spirit is NOT because they lack a second blessing. No. They lack obedience, faith, and surrender. They won’t carry their Cross.
Have you noticed that in this discussion we keep coming back to whether we need a second blessing, verses whether we need the work of the Cross, and the Lordship Jesus? There is a reason for this. Proponents of the second blessing are suggesting that power comes from this additional baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. They say that the second blessing, "makes the power of Jesus happen in us." But the Bible says that the power of Jesus happens in us because we have been made weak by the work of the Cross. The Bible teaches that life always comes from death.
Now note: Second blessing teaching suggests that God must simply add greater life, or power, to us, and the power of Jesus will happen through us. The Bible teaches no such thing. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit must first dismantle us, crucify us, and bring to the ground all basis for power in us. Only through a death like that, through an on-going work of the Cross, can resurrection life – which is the only kind of power there is in Christ – come forth. Therefore, what we have in this teaching of the second blessing, unconsciously I’m sure, is a watering down of the necessity of the Cross. It is a suggestion that POWER comes another way.
I want to make sure that this is understood: God never simply adds to us power – that automatically does things. He cannot. He does give gifts and does enable us, etc. But even those things must ultimately operate out of OUR weakness. Before these can operate fully in God’s will, the Cross must first dismantle our power, our kingdom, and our will. Only then, can His power flow in and through us. Thus, to say that a second blessing makes it possible for the power of Jesus to happen through us is nonsense. Only the Cross makes that possible.
Now, I am sure, at some point, someone will say that the second blessing is the MEANS by which the Cross is brought to bear. But if I have only the first blessing – salvation and an indwelling of Christ – is the Cross not in my life? Is it not brought to bear if I have an indwelling? What are we to say, that there is no possibility of carrying our Cross, coming under the work of the Cross, or submitting to Jesus as Lord, unless we receive a second blessing? For if that is true, then what is left in the first blessing? In that case, we have reduced salvation and an indwelling of Christ to virtually nothing.
Not only that, but we read that this indwelling which we receive at salvation makes it possible for Christ to be SEEN IN US – but we will not see the power of Jesus happening through us. Ok. But what makes it possible for Jesus to be seen in us? The Bible says the Cross. (II Cor. 4) We saw that earlier. Thus, even if you believe there is a second blessing, you have to concede that the Cross is included in it. Thus, it is not of the second blessing.
The fact is, when Peter preached on Pentecost, he did not present them with this list of terms to meet, except for one phrase. He simply said, "Repent and believe," – repent and you will receive the gift of the Spirit. Peter knew that once they did receive the gift of the Spirit – which is the ONE and ONLY blessing necessary – he knew this would begin a work of the Cross that would work towards making Jesus Lord of each life, and work toward manifesting the things of the Spirit.
Speaking of special experiences, I am aware that sometimes when people pray for the baptism as a second blessing that powerful reactions happen. Sometimes NOTHING happens. But neither necessarily reflects what God is doing. Why? Because God doesn’t cause people’s reactions, or stop them. Thus, how we react may, or may not, reflect the Truth about whether God has touched us.
This is vital to see because there are those who have major emotional reactions in church, and it gives the impression that God is doing something powerful. Others do not react, and you might assume NOTHING is happening in them. Plug these possibilities into the teaching of the second blessing, and you end up basing the Truth about it, not on the Bible, but on how people react.
If you read the Bible, it talks more about STOPPING people from over reacting to the Spirit, then it does about encouraging them to react. But aside from that, it is entirely possible for people to operate with great emotion and soul power – yet for the Spirit to be completely uninvolved. Again – how we react means little. How we interpret reactions means little. The question comes back to what the Bible says IS OF GOD, and isn’t, and comes back to obeying scripture.
For instance, the Bible says, "Test the spirits to see whether they are of God." (I John 4:1) The fact that we are to test the spirits proves that false spirits CAN and DO try to enter into the church and lead people astray. But against WHAT are we to test the spirits? By how we feel? By whether we were moved emotionally? No. Our reactions, or perspectives, cannot be set up as the litmus test for Truth. The Word of God is the standard for Truth – used by open hearts who truly want Jesus Christ as Lord.
Of course the problem here is setting up emotional reactions, signs and wonders, and what appears to be the Spirit’s move upon people AS THE GOAL. It is never the goal. We should not go to church in order, "to see what will happen." Or to get an experience or thrill. Jesus Christ is the focal point of the church. And if you read the Bible, and read what the apostles said they prayed for the church, you will never read anything about gifts or emotional experiences. They wanted the church to KNOW JESUS, and to be set free by the Truth. It was always that. Always.
We need to ask a very hard question of those who claim to have received a second blessing, that others have not received. Once you take away all of the emotion, hype, and claims, and the supposed signs and wonders, and once you take away the money, big churches, and big ministries, what is left to see of Jesus? Where is spiritual life, freedom, and HOLINESS? Where is the TRUTH into which Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would lead His people? Indeed, in the charismatic ministries that you see on Christian television, there is more error and heresy than in many other churches. If this experience, which they claim to have, and that others supposedly do not have, is truly of God, why is that the case? Would not the SPIRIT OF TRUTH – through this power of Jesus -- want to manifest, teach, and guide people INTO TRUTH? Why don’t we see this in their very own ministries and teaching programs? At what point do we look at fruits and test the spirits?
I said this before, and I’ll say it again: Wherever signs and wonders are set up as the THING – instead of Jesus the Person – we ought to be suspicious. Wherever the supposed PROOF that God is working is signs and wonders, it is certain that He isn’t working. The proof and evidence that God is working is JESUS CHRIST IN US. HE IS THE EVIDENCE. All the rest comes from Him as the center.
The Holy Spirit came to glorify, testify of, and reveal Jesus Christ – not only to us, but IN US. The Holy Spirit did not come to reveal Himself. Or to glorify THINGS called, "signs and wonders." And the last thing the Holy Spirit does is make celebrities out of so-called prophets and apostles. The Holy Spirit came to make Jesus Lord. Period.
The Person of Christ
Well, back to the issue of experience. There are reasons why God may touch someone who believes they are receiving a second blessing – when, in fact, there is no second blessing. By definition, if you are seeking the second blessing, then you don’t think you have it, and therefore you EXPECT God to touch you. This expectation alone can lead to some pretty terrific reactions. And we will also suppose that if you are seeking a second blessing, that you truly intend to open yourself to God, and to the Lordship of Jesus. If those things are the case, then a ceremony wherein a person asks to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit provides them with a pivot point, if you will, to begin believing and opening themselves to the fullness and overflow already given them. And God may, at that point, look at the heart, and touch a person – not with a second blessing – but as an affirmation because they want Him.
This is important. If a person is open to the work of the Spirit of God, then the Spirit of God is going to begin working! He is not going to wait until you call it a first blessing, instead of a second one, or until you get your theology straight! The fact you are open and are perhaps taught the Truth about the work of the Spirit will be enough. You might continue to think you received all of this in a second blessing. But you didn’t. You received it in Christ. But your openness, as ill-defined as it might be as to theology, is what matters and what God honors.
Now, I am not saying this to trivialize the experiences that people may have between the Lord and themselves. Those experiences may be REAL. But they are not a second blessing. They are nothing more than the touch of a merciful God upon someone whose heart is opened. If you open yourself to God, He is going to bless you. He will bypass your misconceptions and theology. If you want to call something a, "second blessing," God is not likely to withhold freedom from you until you get your terms right – as long as you are otherwise open to His Spirit. Thank God for His mercy.
Now just to further my point, if the baptism of the Holy Spirit WERE a second blessing, would it not be a fact that God would want everyone to receive it at salvation? One would think so. So why did God make it so that it isn’t automatically received, "by grace through faith," at the time of salvation? Why the need to separate things into two blessings, or promises? Why not just give us everything IN CHRIST at salvation? Well, that is, in fact, exactly what God does. We DO receive all at salvation. There is NO second promise, NO second blessing, and NO possibility of being INCOMPLETE in Christ!
You see, once you chop up Jesus Christ, or the Spirit of God, into TWO experiences, which must be separately received – you have completely undermined the entire plan of God. And what you get is division, pride, and deception.
Read the Bible. You will find NOT A SINGLE verse exhorting people to go on to find a second blessing, nor even one verse telling them to be thankful they did receive it. You will not find so much as a suggestion that the baptism with the Holy Spirit is a separate blessing from salvation, or a suggestion that there is such a thing as a Christian who lacks the second blessing. Not a teaching, not a type, and not a parable. Quite remarkable, given the fact that this is a major issue today – one that could have been easily cleared up with one verse. That is because there is no second blessing. The existence of it is purely the invention of religious man.
Always be aware of what people make into a major issue, but which the Bible is silent about. The Bible didn’t leave out important Truth. Where the Bible is silent, we ought to be silent.
Jesus is Lord
As stated, we don’t need something added to Christ. We don’t need a POWER called a second blessing added to Christ in us to make the power of Christ happen through us. What we need is to believe and obey Him. If we do, then the manifestation of Christ – the release of the fullness of the Holy Spirit – will happen. In short, come under the power of the Cross. That is the only way in which the power of Christ happens in you and through you.
When I fully commit my will to God, and fully surrender to Him as Lord, THAT is when the power of Jesus happens in me. Not to be sarcastic, but wouldn’t it be nice to avoid all of that and just get this power though a second blessing?
We mentioned earlier that the Holy Spirit will make Jesus Lord in us – not just reveal it to us as a FACT -- but bring us under His Lordship. Thus, if that is a primary function of the Spirit, and we come to the place where we do come under His Lordship, can we see how this is going to release and manifest the Spirit? Sure. It will be a pivotal point wherein the Spirit will have greater freedom to work in and through me.
This does not mean that I come under the Lordship once for all and never struggle again. Neither does it mean that I must spend thirty years carrying a Cross before there can be any power happening through me. No. This is an ON-GOING PROGRESSIVE unfolding. But I do think it is true that there is a CRISIS point in the life of a Christian where we make such a decision to submit to the Lordship of Christ in a way that we never did before, and perhaps can only enlarge upon later. We finally come to Him as Lord, and surrender to Jesus as Lord – rather than just say we believe He is Lord. And it is at this point that the Holy Spirit can be released in a greater fullness.
But notice: This is not a SECOND blessing, or a baptism WITH the Holy Spirit. No. It is my coming under the work of the baptism with the Spirit that I received once for all at salvation. When I gave my life to Christ at salvation, everything I needed for this next step was potentially possible. But God had to bring me to that place where it could become lived out.
One word in passing about what the Bible calls, "The laying on of hands." In the book of Acts this was often associated with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Why? Not because there is a legalistic ritual required to receive the baptism, and not because there is some kind of transference taking place from person to person. No. That is never said to happen. The laying on of hands has to do with a person submitting to Jesus as Lord. "Hands are laid upon them," to picture that they are being set apart, and are no longer their own. The laying on of hands was also done when people were ordained for special purposes, and we can see the same kind of setting apart being pictured in that. Thus, "the laying on of hands," often, but not always, accompanied the conversion of a person because they were submitting to Christ.
Now obviously, it won’t matter how much you submit to Christ, if you are absolutely dead set against certain gifts, and certain workings of the Holy Spirit, you aren’t going to experience Him in those ways. You won’t exhibit gifts you refuse to exhibit. God won’t force you. And this may not be a matter of deliberately refusing God. It may be that you are afraid, or that you have been taught error.
But on the other side of things, if you completely by-pass submission to Christ and His Cross, and try to operate in the gifts, you will end up using them to exalt yourself. You may end up operating out of the soul and physic realm, instead of the Spirit.
These two possibilities are important to see. Exhibiting certain gifts, especially the so-called, "sign gifts," does not necessarily mean I have submitted to God. Neither does the absence of these gifts mean I haven’t. No. There are many people who submit to Christ as Lord, but who, because of bias or teaching, will not allow certain gifts into their lives. And there are others who have not come to the place of submitting to Christ as Lord, who because they have been told to DO the gifts, DO THEM! But they are not so much of God as they are of religious flesh!
Why do we think that Christians who say they have been baptized with the second blessing sometimes get into such craziness? It is because they have been told to move into these things – and they do – unwittingly outside of the Lordship of Christ. Can we see that if we were under HIS LORDSHIP, and had proper teaching, that we would not only operate in all the gifts, but operate in them according to Biblical guidelines, in Spirit and Truth, and that we would do all things decently and in order? Sure.
The crazy and unbiblical antics of otherwise sincere people is not evidence that God is with them. Hysteria, yelling, emotions, elation, and manifestations prove NOTHING. Indeed, it does not matter how many years of experience you say you have – to prove that there is a second blessing – nor does it matter how many years of experience you say you have – to prove that certain gifts are NOT for today – all that matters is what the Bible says about these things. Experience is always to be validated by the Word of God.
Notice what I just said. I did NOT say that we are to have NO experience. To the contrary. But I DID say that all experience must be within Biblical guidelines or it is NOT OF GOD. I don’t care how many years you have been in the ministry, or what kind of expert you think you are. If it isn’t in the Word, it isn’t of God.
This is vital to see and practice. It explains MUCH. For example, the Holy Spirit never takes anyone over – He flows through us, using our will, our personality, etc. Thus, if we are not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, and have not submitted ourselves to the Cross that will crucify OUR FLESH, we are going to get in the way, and eventually use the gifts of the Spirit for our own ends. That is what the Corinthians began to do. It is what many are doing today.
All of the results of the baptism with the Holy Spirit are supposed to come back to HOLINESS – which means to fully belong to Jesus Christ as Lord. Get that: Living under Jesus as my personal Lord IS holiness! Doesn’t it make sense that the HOLY Spirit in a person will want to make that person HOLY unto the Lord? Sure. Thus, if holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit, the gifts will be of that same work. GIFTS administered in holiness will EDIFY people in Christ, and thus, produce, if people obey, this holiness. Any other product is not of God.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. (1 Cor. 12:1-3)
To say that the gifts can operate according to God’s will through a person who is not submitted to Jesus as Lord of their life is a dangerous suggestion. Thus, rather than say that the gifts are the result of power received through a second blessing, can we see that the Truth is that the proper operation of the gifts – in power – can come only through submitting to Jesus Christ as Lord of my life? Or to put it another way, the fullness of the Spirit is not the result of getting an experience called, "the baptism." The fullness of the Spirit is the result of coming under Jesus as Lord. This is not a second, added experience. It is merely our submission to the Lord whom we have already received in fullness at salvation.
This is precisely why John the Baptist said Jesus would, "baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire." He is Lord, and to be fully immersed into the work of the Holy Spirit is to be fully immersed into His Lordship.
Power to Become
Shortly before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples what would be the purpose of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. He said:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Jesus was not promising them power to witness. No. Rather, He was promising Him power to BECOME – to become witnesses. This speaks, not of what we do, but of what we are. A witness unto Jesus Christ is someone whose life and character are defined by their relationship with Him. Again – He is Lord of our life. The preaching and so forth emerges from that as a basis.
Now what we see here is something I have already stated: The INDWELLING will result in the OVERFLOW or POWER. It will result in that IF – and that is a big IF – we come under the power of the Cross. If we come under the power of the Cross, the indwelling will be released because everything about us that would hinder it, or channel it out of God’s plan, will be crucified out of the way. Thus, the indwelling and power are not received through separate baptisms. The power is the result of the indwelling being released through the Cross.
Let’s explore further the idea of becoming a witness unto Christ. What does it mean to become a witness unto Christ? Well, it means to come to the place where Jesus is seen in you, and His power happens through you. Read Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Rom 8:28-29)
To be a witness unto Jesus means that Jesus will be seen in you – you will be FORMED TOGETHER with Christ. (Which is what the word translated, "conformed," here means) But this is not a stagnant or passive condition. No. You cannot be conformed to Christ, have an indwelling of the Spirit, and have Christ seen in you – but NOT have the possibility of the power of Christ happening through you! – until you get a second blessing! That is nonsense. The indwelling always leads to the power happening through you – if you COME UNDER THE POWER OF THE CROSS! The two possibilities go together because we are talking about relationship, a Person, and ONE blessing.
The apostle John told us what the power was that we receive through the Holy Spirit:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)
And you will note that this power to become sons of God, which is the same power promised by Jesus through the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is not given because we received a second blessing. No. It is clearly stated by John that it is given to, "as many as received HIM….even to them that believe on His name."
The Gifts Edify
Now someone might want to know where all of the gifts come in, if we are to be formed together with Christ. Well, doesn’t Christ have the gifts? Sure. The gifts are included in the package, but will never be exercised according to God’s will unless the person comes under the Lordship of Jesus and the work of the Cross. Do we actually think that ANYTHING is going to work right and accomplish God’s ends without us doing that? Nope. That is why, between discussing spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and 14, God inspired the love chapter of I Cor. 13. It is the, "more excellent way" – not a way that is to be INSTEAD of the gifts, but a way that is THE WAY in which the gifts, and everything else are to be exercised: Through love and according to the will of God.
If you read the passages of scripture that deal with spiritual gifts, you find that they are unto ONE PURPOSE: The edification of the Body of Christ.
Wherefore he says, "When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men." (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: (Eph 4:8-13)
Now let’s ask a rather delicate question: Is what you see on Christian television today, which is mostly charismatic ministry, edifying the Body of Christ? The answer is certainly NO. In fact, there is much error, and some very damaging heresy. Well, these are supposed to be the folks who possess the second blessing. They certainly preach it, and certainly represent many who also preach it. They are the ones, at least right now, with the big ministries, a great deal of money, and they themselves point to all of this success as proof that what they are doing is blessed of God, and a product of the power of the Holy Spirit. So where is the POWER mentioned by Paul that is supposed to be used to edify the Body of Christ?
What I am saying is this: Many of those ministries which claim to be successful because of the baptism with the Holy Spirit – which, according to them, is a second blessing – are today known for some of the worst teaching around. Their focus is on, yes, Jesus as Savior. There is a great deal of evangelism. But go beyond that, and what do they teach the body of Christ? Usually that Jesus wants to make you rich, always heal you, solve all of your problems, and make you successful. You almost never hear how to carry your Cross, come into the knowledge of the Truth, or how to avoid many of the errors and heresies mentioned in the New Testament. And worse, today the idea that God is raising up apostles and prophets is everywhere among these folks. I see young men and woman, in their twenties or thirties, who clearly don’t understand what they are talking about, claiming to be prophets of God. Again I ask – if this second blessing they claim to have received is IT – the real power of God -- then what are the fruits?
I could also ask many questions of those who rightly reject the second blessing as necessary, but also reject the work of the Holy Spirit, and turn Christianity into a dead religion about a Bible character named Jesus. But I think the point is made. It is one thing to talk about whether you have this blessing or not. But read the Bible. Are people doing what the Holy Spirit does? If not, then why?
Disunity and Danger
I firmly believe that it has been a ploy of Satan to create things like a second blessing, to divide Christians. This doesn’t mean that if you believe or teach a second blessing, you are in the grip of Satan, or necessary a false teacher on that point alone. No. For those who don’t believe in a second blessing probably create more division!
Either way, this ploy of Satan has definitely worked. Many who believe that there is a necessary second blessing are Godly, sincere people. Many who believe there is NOT a second blessing are likewise. But get them together, and the best case scenario is usually that there is a whole area of life in Christ that they cannot discuss, let alone have fellowship in. All because of this one issue.
There are many nationally known teachers – sincere men of God – who believe and teach a, "second blessing." There are also many nationally known teachers who deny it, and all of the gifts that are commonly associated with it. Obviously, at least one side, if not both, despite degrees and experience, is DEAD wrong on this issue. This disagreement has created a polarization and division in Christianity.
I have to be honest in saying that I know of no one, at least who is nationally well-known, who teaches that there is NO second blessing, but that all of the gifts commonly associated with it are valid for today. I’m sure there must be some who are less known – or at least I hope so. But most who believe in the possibility of ALL the gifts say those gifts come through a second blessing. And most who deny ALL the gifts are for today, likewise deny a second blessing. It would seem that almost everyone associates the gifts – most especially the so-called, "sign gifts" -- with a second blessing, and it is almost impossible to suggest otherwise. Somehow, to most people, the two go together, despite the fact that we have seen that they do not.
If you go to church websites, you can find built into many of their statements of faith all kinds of indications of this issue causing division. Some churches absolutely OUTLAW any display of spiritual gifts, demonstrative worship, or anything else that is commonly associated with the charismatics, or those who teach a second blessing. There are ministers today who openly state that tongues, prophecy, and even demonstrative worship, is of the Devil. Go to websites that post ads from churches seeking a pastor, and included in almost every one of those ads is an indication as to whether that church is, "charismatic," or, "non-charismatic." What does this tell us about whether this issue is divisive?
Unfortunately, many churches who reject the living move of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts, think that Christianity is nothing more than a theological position, doctrines to follow, and a creed to memorize. The one commendable thing in some of these churches is that they do hold to Biblical doctrine. But despite that, there is NO LIFE in some of these places, and any suggestion that Christianity is an experience with a living Christ is met with suspicion. The focus is often on the church as a THING, and the goal is to keep it going with members and money, and a highly, "educated," polished, ministry. In rejecting the second blessing – the rejection of which is a straw man – they have unwittingly rejected the gifts commonly associated with it, and in many cases, have shut out any LIFE and any MOVE of the Holy Spirit.
The other side of the story is that there are many charismatic churches, leaders, and ministries, that are just plain arrogant -- because they think they have IT – and others do not. So often you hear them flaunting large churches, ministries, and wealth – even though these things mean NOTHING as to whether God is blessing them. In fact, in many charismatic churches today, (although certainly not all), error and heresy abound, because they have thrown Biblical doctrine – and the personal Lordship of Jesus -- out the window in favor of an experience – which they associate with a second blessing. The one thing to commend is their openness to the Holy Spirit. But they throw out much doctrine and Biblical guidelines. Worse, in so many of these places, there is one Truth that is almost never mentioned: The Truth of the Cross -- I mean, the Cross as applicable in the present life of the Christian. This Truth is generally absent from most teaching, even though it is a CENTRAL Truth of the Bible in so many ways.
If you doubt that the Cross is missing from much that is going on in the charismatic churches, then be challenged to turn on Christian television for, let’s say, a month. Most of the programming on there is charismatic in nature. Keep track of the main subject matter which is taught, whether it be directly, or indirectly. If you are able to record even one instance of teaching on the Cross of Jesus Christ – I don’t mean the FACT of His death on the Cross – but the Cross as God’s tool in the life of the Christian today, that will be a unique month. I watch a lot of Christian television, in order to inform myself of what is going on in the Body of Christ. And I have NEVER heard any in-depth teaching on the Cross – although I leave room for having missed such occasions. Rarely do I hear even a mention of it. Instead, what I hear about is success, wealth, what God will do for you, and again, how they have IT, and the rest of Christianity can get IT – by coming to THEM.
If you get my drift, you will see that when everything is said and done, it all comes back, not to whether we have a second blessing or not, but whether we are right with God. It comes down to our personal relationship with Christ – not to whether we have received something others have not received. What have we done with Jesus Christ? Is He our personal Lord? – Not just with lip service, but in a life-altering way? That is the only question God is going to ask each of us.
Clearly, it is not going to matter what is said on this highly controversial matter, there are going to be those who will NEVER accept other possibilities – which disagree with their experience. People just buy into teaching, and look at their experiences, and if the two agree, well, the case is closed. Plus, people are often taught to misinterpret what an experience really is. But we must adhere to the Word of God. THAT is our guide – and one that supercedes our experiences – or lack of experiences.
There are highly popular teachers today preaching a second blessing, and surely, people think, they cannot be wrong. And likewise, there are going to be those who will never accept certain spiritual gifts, whether they be part of the first, second, third, or tenth blessing! They will deny certain gifts, and surely, people think, they cannot be wrong. Christian people are simply not all that open to the Truth on these matters.
There is NO second blessing. There is only THE blessing – Jesus Christ. But in Christ are all of the gifts that are commonly associated with a second blessing. This ought to be good news for everyone. Because it means that no one need miss out on the fullness of what God has. If you are born again, you already have the fullness. You need only submit to what God has already given us in His Son.
There is a great freedom that comes from knowing that in the Person of Jesus Christ, and in nothing and no one else, is ALL. The Christian experience is not chopped up into two blessings. Christ is not divided. In Him is fullness.
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